Background Mobile phone applications (apps), which offer a paradigm shift in healthcare, have potential to transform sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention and management. Currently, few sexual health related apps exist for young people. We reviewed existing sexual health mobile apps to inform the design of apps that could be used in eSTI2: STI self-testing, diagnosis, and self-management linked to internet-based clinical management and support.
Methods Major online app stores for sexual health-related mobile apps were searched, excluding apps without STI-related content, intended exclusively for health care professionals or those not available in English. Eligible apps were downloaded and assessed for user ratings, download rates, interactivity as well as examined for salient content features.
Results Of 1504 matches from the initial search, 40 unique individual apps met the selection criteria (10 for iPhone, 14 for Android, three for Blackberry, three for Windows, 10 multi platform). The three most prevalent features of eligible apps were sexual health and STI awareness information (60%), testing information (30%), and risk calculator features (30%). 11 of the eligible apps (27%) featured an interactive component and 8 included information for a range of sexual orientations. Sexual health apps were infrequently downloaded (median 100–500 downloads); not highly rated (average rating of 3.5/5); 47% of them received no ratings. There was no relationship between download frequency and rating; the most downloaded app (10k-50k downloads) received 20 reviews.
Conclusion Our study indicates that as yet, there are no fully functional apps that support the user throughout the entire pathway of STI awareness, testing, diagnosis management, prescription, partner notification and health promotion. There is a pressing need for sexual health apps which are validated and certified based on reliable content and meet high operability, privacy and security standards to appropriately exploit the potential health care benefits of mobile sexual health.
- sexual health apps